Last weekend at the 2010 Heineken Regatta in Sint Maarten, broker Carolyn Titus of Northrop and Johnson Worldwide Yacht Charters was among the group that chartered Safara, the 72-foot Andrews sailing yacht that took first prize in its class (Non Spinnaker 1) as well as the trophy for the Fastest Non Spinnaker Around the Island Race.
Following is an exclusive interview with Titus about how the charter came about, and how other people—even those with no racing background—can make a regatta part of a fun-filled yacht charter vacation.
You’ve been chartering sailing yachts at regattas for 15 years now. Are you always with the same people?
Our group varies depending on whoever has the time and wants to invest in the vacation, but it’s basically the same core group. Some years, we’ve had 25 people on a big boat. This year, we were 12 people on a smaller boat.
Does one person charter the yacht and bring everyone else as guests, or do you all chip in for the yacht’s weekly base rate?
We get a group together and collectively charter the boat, which is something that any group of charter clients can do if they want to split the bill for a charter boat for a week. An event like the Heineken Regatta is three days long, so you can go cruising for four days and then race for three days during a week-long charter. It’s really a nice vacation for anybody looking for a little more adventure.
What about people who have little or no racing experience?
You don’t have to be full-on racing people to do this type of charter. In events like the Heineken Regatta, there is a cruising class. It is different from racing class. There’s enough racing to keep everybody entertained and active, but you don’t have to overdo it.
For instance, It can be one race a day as opposed to two or three. And the race days themselves aren’t going to crush you. During the Heineken Regatta this year, our second day of racing didn’t start until 1:45 in the afternoon. We lounged around all morning, raced, and then went out to enjoy a party at night. It’s a nice combination of racing activity and leisure.
The owners of true racing sailboats don’t always make them available for regattas because of liability concerns and other issues. Do you find it difficult to match regatta charter clients with appropriate yachts?
Usually, it’s not an issue if you’re considering cruising class. The wear and tear on the boat is really limited compared to what goes on in racing class. You’re not overloading the boat with people, and the races are only about two hours a day, so you’re not putting a whole lot of pressure on the boat. It’s not too far off from just cruising, so more owners would consider cruising class racing for charters.
Are there certain charter yachts that you regularly recommend for regatta charters?
Obviously, I have to recommend Safara (shown in the photograph at right). She was fantastic for our charter last weekend. She’s part of our fleet at Northrop and Johnson Worldwide Yacht Charters, and, actually, she is still available for Antigua Sailing Week in April and the Newport to Bermuda Race in June.
I also recommend the 100-foot Swan sailing yacht Virago, which my group has chartered for regatta racing in the past. That owner and crew are eager to do racing charters. We’ve also had a lot of racing charters on the 62-foot Swan sailing yacht Eden.
You mentioned the Newport to Bermuda Race and Antigua Sailing Week. In addition to those, and to the Heineken Regatta where you competed, what are the best regatta charter opportunities each year?
The BVI Spring Regatta is in late March or early April. Also at the end of March is the International Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas. In August, there’s the New York Yacht Club Cruise, where you race from port to port in Maine. In the Mediterranean, there is Les Voiles de St. Tropez, which takes place in late September or early October.
Can any charter broker help a client book a regatta charter, or is special knowledge required?
In general, the boat that’s best for any charter group really depends on the regatta format and how the group plans to use the boat, so you need a broker who knows about racing as well as chartering.
Last weekend’s win at the Heineken Regatta seems proof positive that you fit that description.
I’ve been racing my entire life. I arrange a lot of racing charters, and I’ve done all the regattas myself. So yes, it’s nice for the client to be able to work with a broker who knows the logistics of how things are going to work every day.
Having done it myself, I have a very good idea of how to put these charters together. My personal group has won eight or nine times over the years, and a lot of that has to do with the boat that was chosen for the event. I can help people make the most of their regatta charters, too.
For additional information, contact Carolyn Titus through the Northrop and Johnson Worldwide Yacht Charters website.